Tips for Flying with a toddler: Mom and 2 little kids in front of an airplane

23 Tips For Flying with a Toddler: Practical And Helpful

So, you are planning to travel with your little ones but are looking for tips and resources for Flying with a toddler for a smoother experience. I hear you!

It is no secret that flying with a toddler can be exhausting. We are travel parents of two little ones and have taken many domestic and international flights with a toddler and a baby.

We have experienced the worst and the best during it all and are finally figuring out what works best for us. It certainly took us a few years.

I compiled the most practical tips and resources for flying with a toddler in this post. These have significantly improved our family’s travel experiences, and I am excited to share them with you.

It is essential to note that every kid is unique. This guide does not promise to eliminate tantrums. However, I am confident that following these tips will make your experience more manageable and stressless.

Please note that this post may contain affiliate links, and I will earn a small commission for any sales made through such links – at no extra cost to you.

A woman smiling at the camera with 1 little boy standing next to her and a baby in her arms in front of an airplane at the airport

19 Practical Tips on Flying With a Toddler

1. Choose Morning Flights

Choosing the proper flight schedule can significantly impact the experience of traveling with little ones.

Ask yourself: “Will my kid be well rested with this flight time, or will they be more cranky?” You know your child the best, so you make the judgment.

For us, morning flights work the best. They allow kids to get their whole night’s sleep, which means you will have a less cranky child to care for when dealing with airport security.

a toddler at the airport watching an airplane from the window

2. Decide Lap Travel or Extra Seat

When flying with a baby or a toddler under two years old, you can have them sit on your lap without additional (or minor) cost or book an extra seat.

Buying an extra seat for the child can provide more space and the option to use a travel car seat. However, not all toddlers like to sit independently, so think about what works best for you before spending more.

We did not buy any extra seats before my older one turned 2. We took advantage of extra seats but did not want to spend extra on it. However, now we have two kids, and one is a toddler, I see that getting an additional seat for next time will be more beneficial

3. Choose Window Seats (Avoid Aisle)

Window seats for the win when traveling with a toddler! Window seats offer a view, entertainment, and wall space, which can be helpful during toddler naps. You can also use the window to entertain them with spinning suction cups.

The next best seat is the front-row bulkhead seats for extra legroom.

Try to avoid Aisle seats when flying with a toddler. Be aware that aisle seats can pose risks, with service carts passing by and potentially bumping into your child.

a toddler looking out from a an airplane window. One of the best tips to book window seat for flying with a toddler

4. Talk to Them About a Trip

It’s generally a good idea to prepare toddlers for flying beforehand. Familiarizing them with flying and explaining what to expect can help reduce anxiety and make the experience more manageable for them.

Simple explanations and visual aids can be practical in assisting toddlers to understand what will happen during the flight.

Get them a travel book featuring the Airport and airplanes, or let them watch a short clip or a cartoon to let them visualize the process.

5. Dress Them in Layers

Layers allow easy and flexible adjustment to varying temperatures. Airports and airplanes can have fluctuating temperatures, so dressing in layers ensures you and your toddler can stay comfortable regardless of the conditions.

If you are traveling with a lap toddler, you and him can quickly get sweaty. Removing a layer is much easier than completely changing your kid’s clothes.

6. Access Airport Lounges For Long Layovers

If you are flying with a toddler and have a long layover or wait time, airport lounges can be one of the best ways to regain your sanity. Snacks, refreshments, clean bathrooms, and fast Wi-Fi can benefit everyone in the family.

There are several options available to access airport lounges with kids.

You can consider purchasing a day pass, obtaining a Priority Pass, or using an airline credit card for lounge access. Some lounges may allow complimentary access for kids under a certain age, so checking the specific policy of the desired lounge is essential.

While we do not usually go to airport lounges, we took advantage of one once. It was the best two hours of waiting for our flight away from the crowded and overheated Airport.

toddler at the airport lounge reading a book. Using Airport Lounges is one of the best tips for traveling with a toddler

7. Invest in TSA Precheck

TSA PreCheck is a program that lets you go through airport security faster. You apply online, go through a background check, and pay a fee to get it.

Once approved, you can use special lanes at the Airport to go through security faster. I only wish we had done this quicker because it made a big difference when flying with a toddler or a baby.

When traveling with children 12 and under, they can go through TSA PreCheck with their eligible parents or guardians. Kids aged 13-17 need their own TSA PreCheck if they travel without an eligible adult.

Whether it’s worth it depends on how often you travel and how much you value the convenience of faster security screening at the Airport.

To Get TSA PreCheck, you can follow these general steps:

  1. Pre-Enrollment: Start by completing the online application on the TSA website or through an approved enrollment provider.
  2. In-Person Appointment: After completing the online application, you must schedule an in-person appointment at an enrollment center. During this appointment, you will be fingerprinted and provided with required documentation, such as a valid passport or driver’s license.
  3. Background Check: The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will conduct a background check based on the information provided in your application.
  4. Approval and Known Traveler Number (KTN): You will receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN) via mail or email. This KTN is used when booking flights to access TSA PreCheck lanes.
  5. Fee Payment: A non-refundable application fee ($ 78 for five years per applicant). Once approved, you must pay this fee before receiving your KTN.

It’s important to note that specific details and requirements may vary, so it’s advisable to refer to the official TSA website for updates or changes.

8. Arrive Early at the Airport

Aim to arrive at the Airport well before departure to minimize stress.

The extra time allows for unexpected delays and a more relaxed pace, essential when traveling with little ones.

Utilize this time to check in and navigate airport security quicker with your toddler, as these processes take longer than expected.

9. Let them help you

I’m not sure about your toddlers, but my firstborn would entertain himself by rolling one of the carry-on bags every time we went to the Airport. Let them help, even if they take their time. It’s better than tantrums! This is why getting to the Airport early is also essential to accommodate little helpers.

a toddler rolling a carryon luggage at the airport

10. Bring a Folding Travel Stroller

The stroller is a blessing for getting around the Airport faster. Your hands can be free, and you do not need to worry about extra thongs to carry, such as baby carries, unless your toddler prefers you have them.

If you decide to bring a stroller, do not bring your fancy one. There is a high risk that it will be damaged and ruined.

We are guilty of it. Our Stoke Explorer was entirely ruined during our trip to London, and after almost one year on and off with British Airlines, we are still trying to resolve it. At this point, I feel like giving up.

If you travel often and want to avoid checking your stroller, I highly recommend investing in a foldable travel stroller. A few fantastic options are Babyzen Yoyo and Cybex Liebelle.

Be ready for security checkpoints. Dress your toddler in shoes and outerwear that are easy to remove. Keep electronics and liquids accessible to expedite the screening process. You may need to fold strollers, so practice doing this beforehand. Remember, staying calm yourself helps your toddler remain calm as well.

11. Change Diapers/Use the Bathroom Before the Flight

I’m not sure about you, but I feel uncomfortable taking my kids in an airplane bathroom. My Baby/toddler got extremely scared when I was changing diapers there. It is the tiny place to appropriately dress and undress a kid—especially an active toddler. So, I do everything possible to minimize my trips there.

I try to change diapers for the last few minutes before we get on the plane and take my older kid to the bathroom. Yes, they will use airplane bathrooms if needed, but at least they will delay it a little.

12. Have a Surprise Toy

In addition to filling their backpacks with their favorite small toys and snacks, get something for them as a surprise. These little surprises almost always work wonders to keep their attention directed to something new when managing them is tough.

I like to save those until we get on the airplane to win some time while they are busy exploring new toys.

13. Locate Play Areas at the Airport

Most airports have family restrooms and changing facilities. Look for play areas designed for children to provide a safe space for your toddler to play and make the waiting time more enjoyable. You can promptly address your child’s needs by identifying these facilities in advance.

airport play area

14. Organize Carry-on and Diaper Bag with Essentials

Yes, we take both and pack essentials in both bags because we never know. My kids get their clothes dirty multiple times during the trips, and we get a fair amount of spills and messes, too, so we do not take chances.

Your carry-on should be stocked with items, including everything your child needs.

Similarly, we keep a lesser amount of everything in a diaper bag for easier access and hope never to need to take down the carry-on from the airplane overhead. A well-organized backpack or diaper bag can be such a lifesaver.

A thoughtful packing list can look like this:

  • Diapers or pull-ups
  • Wipes
  • Change of clothes
  • Snacks and drinks
  • Favorite toys or comfort items
  • Coloring Books such as this airport coloring book
  • Tablet or smartphone with child-friendly entertainment
  • Child’s medication, if needed
  • Extra pacifiers, if applicable
  • A blanket or small pillow for comfort

15. Stay Calm With Tantrums

You may follow all the tips in the guide, but sometimes, we cannot control the unavoidable. Tantrums may still happen; you should expect them and be prepared to stay calm. Do not let anyone’s judgmental looks make you feel like kids do not belong to airplanes.

It’s important to stay calm and be prepared when dealing with tantrums during a flight with a toddler.

Distract them with toys, books, or electronic devices, engage with the flight attendants for assistance, and comfort them to make them feel safe.

16. Assist During Air Pressure

Babies and toddler’s ears can hurt during airplane travel due to changes in air pressure.

When a plane ascends or descends, the air pressure changes rapidly, and young children, including babies, may have difficulty equalizing the pressure in their ears. This can lead to discomfort or pain.

You can avoid this by offering a bottle, breastfeeding, or a pacifier. Additionally, providing a snack or a drink during these times can help alleviate ear pressure.

Baby hand on an airplane window

17. Do Not Force Sleep Too Much

Ok, I will admit that the best moments to fly with a toddler are when they are napping/sleeping. It’s time when I can finally relax my hands and nerves and have some book or movie time with pretzels. Yes!

While it feels fantastic when your kids finally fall asleep on the plane, it is essential not to force it too much, as this can worsen things.

My kids usually have some downtime during our flights. But not always! Initially, I used to force it so much that I left myself burnt out at the end of the day, and nobody slept anyway. I learned my lesson.

Kids are excited and overstimulated by a new environment, and forcing them to sleep makes them even more irritated. So take it easy if they are not cooperating.

baby and a small kid both sleeping at the airplane

18. Preplan In-Flight Entertainment

We have strict rules for daily screen time or tablet use, but if you are like us, I recommend forgetting those rules when your toddler is stuck in one seat for hours—one of the best tips I told myself for traveling with a toddler.

Keep your toddler occupied with a mix of their favorite toys, books, sticker books, and digital entertainment. Mix it up so they are not watching screens all flight long.

Consider downloading new apps or shows for the occasion, and don’t forget to charge your electronic devices.

toddler and a big brother watching a tablet in the airplane. One of the best tips for flying with a toddler

19. Snack and Meal Tips

  • Snacks: Pack their favorites plus new options to pique interest
  • Meals: Prefer easy-to-handle and non-messy foods
  • Hydration: Offer water frequently to stay hydrated

20. Inflatable Foot Rest For Sleep

An inflatable toddler footrest pillow for airplanes is designed to provide young travelers with a comfortable and supportive surface to rest their legs and feet during flights.

These pillows are typically adjustable in height to accommodate different seating arrangements and can help children maintain a more comfortable and relaxed position during air travel.

It’s important to note that specific airline policies may vary, so checking with the airline before traveling is advisable. For example, Air France did not allow us to use one.

In addition, some of the parents are big fans of Stoke Bedbox, which can serve as kids’ luggage and a bed.

While we do not have one, we have seen this often around the airport. I even asked one family member for their opinion, and they said it was the best thing to travel with a toddler.

21. Keep Them Hydrated

The air in the cabin can be arid, so keeping your toddler well-hydrated throughout the flight is essential.

Regular sips of water or milk help prevent dehydration. Consider bringing an empty sippy cup to fill after passing through security.

22. Try to Stay Calm During Tantrums

Tantrums can happen, especially when the environment and routine change. Stay calm and respond with reassuring words.

Distraction is essential; a new book or a quiet toy can be very effective, as can their favorite comfort items, such as a blanket or a stuffed animal.

23. Take Care of Yourself Too!

When traveling with a toddler, it’s important to prioritize self-care to manage the demands of little travelers effectively. Here are some of my favorite tips.

  • Plan Ahead: Organize your itinerary and pack essentials in advance to minimize stress during the trip.
  • Rest When Possible: Take naps or quiet moments to rest and recharge. This could be challenging if you are traveling solo. But if your partner is coming along, make sure you both get a little bit of rest.
  • Stay Hydrated and Nourished: Maintain a balanced diet and drink plenty of water to sustain energy. As much as you would like to go for caffeine, try not to. It makes me more tired and anxious when traveling with kids. Instead, drink a lot of water.
  • Ask for help: Don’t hesitate to ask for help from family, friends, or travel companions when caring for your toddler.
  • Practice Patience: Embrace flexibility and be patient with yourself and your child during travel.
  • Self-Entertainment: Bring along items to keep yourself entertained during downtime, such as books, music, or podcasts.

FAQs: Tips For Flying With a Toddler

What Identification Do I Need When Flying With Toddlers?

When flying with a toddler in the United States, children under 18 generally do not need a passport or identification. However, I recommend having some identification when traveling domestically, such as a birth certificate, passport, or state-issued identification.

Some airlines may still require age verification. Before traveling, you should check with the airline for additional requirements or recommendations.

Kids of all ages need to have a passport for all international flights.

Can You Bring Toddler Snacks Through Airport Security?

You can bring any dry snacks, such as granolas, cookies, puffs, dried fruits, and crackers, without any issues. I like to put them in individual Ziploc bags for easy identification if required.

You may also bring creamy or liquidy items such as yogurts, breastmilk, or formula, but be prepared to disclose those and the security to check those items separately. You can get those inside the airport if you would mind waiting a few extra minutes. We do not mind the process and usually bring everything we need from home.

What Are Some Tips For Flying With a Toddler on Your Lap?

While flying with toddlers can be challenging, flying with a lap toddler can be even more difficult. But do not worry—we have done it and survived every time.

Here are some of my favorite things to do when traveling with a toddler on a lap: Arrive at the Airport early and get them tired enough to get them to nap on the airplane, hopefully.

A carrier or a sling allows parents to free their hands for a little while. But remember, airlines will not allow it during take-offs, landings, or turbulences.

Keep them hydrated, well-fed, and entertained, even during screen time.

Bring pacifier holders to avoid going to the bathroom to rinse often! Also, I would pack extra milk bottles for the same reason.

Final Thoughts: Tips For Flying With a Toddler

Here are my most practical tips for flying with a toddler. These may not work equally for every kid, but considering them will prepare you for a journey with more confidence.

I love traveling with kids, and I accept its ups and downs. Because at the end of the journey, I will not remember the nonstop tantrums but the joy and memories created in between.

If you need more motivation or inspiration, check out my favorite travel with kids quotes to boost your positivity and excitement.

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